Thursday, 6 November 2003

Truth, Lies, and The Legend of 9/11

by Chaim Kupferberg

It was almost an afterthought. On March 1, 2003, the War On Terror had finally served up the alleged paymaster of 9/11 - a shadowy Saudi by the name of Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi. Yet his arrest just happened to coincide with the capture of a much bigger fish - the reported 9/11 mastermind himself, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - thus relegating Mustafa Ahmed to the footnote section of the "official" 9/11 Legend. But there was another, more explosive side to this tale. Only seventeen months before, a former London schoolboy by the name of Omar Saeed Sheikh was first exposed as the 9/11 paymaster, acting under the authority of a Pakistani general who was in Washington D.C. on September 11, meeting with the very two lawmakers who would subsequently preside over the "official" 9/11 congressional inquiry. Omar Saeed, as reported back then by CNN, was acting under the alias of...Mustafa Ahmed. So where is Omar now? Sitting in a Pakistani prison, awaiting his execution for the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl - while another man fills the shoes of his pseudonym. What follows is a reconstruction of one of the most extensive disinformation campaigns in history, and the chronicle of a legend that may now shine a devastating spotlight on some of the cliques behind 9/11 - and the FBI Director covering the paper trails.

"The hijackers left no paper trail," proclaimed FBI Director Robert Mueller on April 30, 2002. "In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper...that mentioned any aspect of the Sept. 11 plot." Yet in the weeks immediately following September 11, Mueller and his FBI had left the public with a very different impression - an impression that conjured the vision of truckloads of paper documents pointing any number of ways to the culpability of Osama Bin Laden for the events of 9/11. For one, there was the infamous handwritten "checklist" found not only in hijacker Mohamed Atta's abandoned luggage, but also in the car rented in hijacker al-Hazmi's name, discovered at Dulles Airport, and which included lofty Arabic prayers alongside last minute reminders to bring "knives, your will, IDs, your passport, all your papers." But more importantly, the treasure trove in al-Hazmi's glove compartment yielded a paper trail that led all the way to London - and to the arrest of a potentially major suspect.

On September 30, 2001, as reported in the Telegraph by David Bamber, British prosecutor Arvinda Sambir announced that authorities had arrested Lotfi Raissi, whose name was found in al-Hazmi's rental. A further search of Raissi's apartment had yielded up a video clip starring Raissi with alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour - all in all, another circumstantial slam-dunk in the snowballing case against al-Qaida. Or was it? For by April of 2002 - when Mueller made his "paper trail" declaration - Raissi would go free for want of evidence.

As we will shortly see, Raissi was being set up to play his part in a prearranged drama, one in which a definitive money trail leading to al-Qaida would be announced just in time for the October 7, 2001 launch into Afghanistan. Yet a brief, almost innocuous, article in the October 9 Times of India would lay havoc to this plan, necessitating a massive cover-up and a search for an alternative smoking gun that would unveil itself before a skeptical world audience on December 13, 2001 as the Official Bin Laden Videotape Confession.

An essential player in that original plan was Omar Saeed Sheikh (hereafter Omar Saeed), a 27 year-old London-born man of Pakistani parentage who had attended the London School of Economics before answering the call of militancy, heading off to Bosnia, and from there, to Pakistan, where he would make his "bones" in a 1994 kidnapping, serving time in an Indian prison until being bartered out for hostages in a 1999 airplane hijacking. Packing a lifetime into the next two years, Omar Saeed caught the eye of the so-called militant faction of Pakistan's ISI (the Pakistani CIA), rounding out his curricular vitae by tinkering around with the al-Qaida computer network in Afghanistan.

Omar Saeed made his public post-9/11 debut on September 23, 2001, on the very same day that his pseudonym, Mustafa Ahmad, made its own post-9/11 debut through President Bush's Global Terrorist Executive Order, in which a "Shaykh Sai'id (aka Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad)" was mentioned as a financial operative in al-Qaida, among a list of 27 individuals and entities slated to have their assets frozen. On September 23, Nick Fielding of The Sunday Times reported: "British officials have now asked India for legal assistance in seeking the whereabouts of Omar [Saeed] Sheikh. British security services confirmed this weekend that they wanted him for questioning."

A week later, on September 30, 2001, we found out why, when David Bamber of the Telegraph reported: "Police also believe that ... Omar [Saeed] Sheikh, who is British, trained the terrorists in hijacking techniques." As Bamber implied, Omar Saeed was working in cahoots with Lotfi Raissi, who was just recently arrested and charged with training the hijacker pilots. In other words, in less than three weeks after 9/11, authorities were closing in on Raissi and Omar Saeed, the alleged trainers of the alleged hijackers.

Now all that remained was to furnish a "smoking gun" link to al-Qaida by way of a money trail, all in time for the planned October 7 invasion of Afghanistan. On the very day that the Telegraph outed Raissi and Omar Saeed as the 9/11 trainers, ABC News This Week announced that a $100,000 money trail had been traced in Florida from hijacker Atta to "people linked to Osama bin Laden."

The very next day, on October 1, Judith Miller of the New York Times reported that hijacker Atta received money from someone using the alias "Mustafa Ahmad". Five days later, on October 6, Maria Ressa of CNN, quoting terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, officially unveiled Omar Saeed as the pseudonymous 9/11 money man: "He [Omar Saeed] is ... linked to the financial network feeding bin Laden's assets, so therefore he's quite an important person...because he transfers money between various operatives, and he's a node between al Qaeda and foot soldiers on the ground." Ressa went on to report: "Because investigators have now determined that [Omar Saeed] and Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad [the pseudonym] are the same person, it provides another key link to bin Laden as the mastermind of the overall [9/11] plot."

Two days later, on October 8, Ressa revisited the story, this time connecting Omar Saeed to an October 1 attack on the provincial legislature in Kashmir - an incident that led Pakistan and India closer to the brink. October 8, incidentally, was also one of the very last times that CNN touched upon Omar Saeed - at least until he bobbed up a few months later, on February 6, as the FBI's main suspect in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl. Yet by then, CNN - and Maria Ressa - was stricken by a curious case of amnesia, neglecting to mention that Saeed was previously outed by them as the 9/11 bag-man. Why this sudden silence? And, more to the point, why did Omar Saeed virtually drop off CNN's radar after October 8?

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